Konga is a private washing station located just south of the town of Yirga Chefe, in the heart of the coveted Gedeo Zone—the narrow section of highland plateau dense with savvy farmers and fiercely competitive processors whose coffee is known the world over as “Yirgacheffe”. The Gedeo region is named after the Gedeo people who are indigenous to this area. As a coffee terroir, Yirgacheffe has for decades been considered a benchmark for beauty and complexity in arabica coffee—known for being beguilingly ornate and jasmine-like when fully washed, and seductively punchy and sweet when sundried--and hardly requires an introduction.
The Konga station is owned and operated by Mekuria Mergia and his family. Konga’s contributing farmers number over 800, and average about four acres of farmland each. The operation itself if visible from the main north-south highway through Gedeo, a sprawling field of raised beds and portable screens used to transport wet parchment after fermentation. Being right along the region’s central artery has its advantages: we have never visited and not seen a mixture of trucks, bikes, and individuals on foot delivering cherry to the station. They do less natural processing than washed but the naturals they do are indeed layered and expressive. No doubt the result of careful sorting and drying routines executed to perfection throughout the dramatic temperature fluctuations of Yirgacheffe’s unique high-elevation climate.
Private processors like Konga are a thing to behold. It’s a tough business being a private processor in Gedeo, as the sheer density of competition among washing stations tends to push cherry prices as high as double throughout a single harvest, and privates often don’t have the backing of a larger union to secure financing, regulate cherry prices, or bring export costs down with centralized milling and marketing. Successful private washing stations like Konga, then, need to be not only standout quality processors to stay afloat; they must also be excellent business developers with connections and community standing, in order to continue winning the business of farmers and buyers alike, and stay afloat for the long term.